Saturday, January 21, 2012

International Motorcycle Show NYC 1.21.12- 961 Norton Commando

This years IMS at Javits was plagued with the first significant snow storm of the 2012 season, but that didn't keep the hoards of people from swimming through a sea of alien skin painted "kustomz" and unrideable show ponies to hit up vendors for free key chains, beer cozies and other useless corporate giveaways. While crowds oooohed and aahhhed over a hydraulic-hopping chopper, a few, more refined folks snapped pictures of a couple of well used British Flat Trackers and an unrestored 56 MV Agusta 175 sport covered in heavy patina. While a sight for sore eyes, there was one small booth a few were buzzing about. The newly relaunched Norton Motorcycle company was there with one of the new 961 Commandos. A small but eager crew of enthusiasts gathered around the single bike to catch a glimpse of what might be the first, new-generation of classically inspired, modern bikes to hit the U.S. Since Triumph relaunched the Bonneville 10 years earlier.
57 glodie dbd34 flat tracker

56 MV agusta 175 sport

68 T100 Triumph

2012 Norton Commando Cafe

The familiar grey tank with red and black lettering drew people in to the 270 degree twin air cooled motor that certainly looked every bit of what a new commando should look like. Clean, sporty lines, dual Brembo twin piston disks up front, a hydraulic clutch, Ohlins suspension front and back with beefy 43mm forks - the bike looked well thought out and the repeated question of "when" was heard over and over amongst the crowd.

2012 Norton Commando Cafe

"when" is a good question indeed, as Norton took pre orders last year that left many buyers of the 20k cycle in the lurch for months until receiving a refund due to lack of inventory. Would this bike be available in the U.S. market this year? Would there be dealers with inventory on hand? Would Norton be able to finance the amount of pre orders or would they come up short changed again? Smoke and Throttle along with team at RetroMoto tv had a chance to sit down for lunch with Nortons new head of U.S. sales, Dan Van Epps (formerly of Ducati) to get the details.

2012 Norton Commando Cafe

Yes, Norton had blown it last year, but Dan is now in charge and the bike is currently being inspected for U.S. Sales and must pass a series of requirements before bikes can be placed in show rooms. First things first, the moment the bike gets a green light, all the pre orders must be filled. Unlike last year, where Norton was literally building each bike by hand, they now have a full scale production facility in Great Britain, where the bikes can be mass produced. Norton dealerships are being firmed up for at least 18 major markets, state side. Once these hurdles are leapt, the remaining Commandos will go to the show room floors - that is what, if anything, is left over. 2013 should be a more plentiful year for Norton, though the company has decided to keep production to a limited number of units. The bikes are expensive, but the high end parts, assembled in the UK put this in a league above, say, the Bonneville T100. The Norton 961 weighs in at 415lbs and boasts 80bhp over the 395lb 54bhp Bonnie. Precision engineering,larger displacement and higher compression gives the Norton a respectable advantage in performance. The standard, superior features such as progressive suspension and braking Make up for some of the more than double base price of the Commando - the rest lies in the fact that it's actually made in the UK vs the Triumph Bonnie which is made in Thailand.

Dan assures that this bike is not a beginners cycle, but a high performance air cooled classic. The price point is higher, the availability is slimmer (making it more unique to own) and every detail makes this the higher end machine Norton was known for throughout history.... well that may be a matter of opinion, but the 70's Commandos still fetch way more than the 70's Bonneville because they are simply a better machine to ride.

2012 Norton Commando Cafe

It wil be interesting to see if the bike becomes available as promised. We certainly hope so. A test ride for RetroMoto tv is in the works as soon as the bikes are officially cleared for U.S. distribution. More on this exciting bike will be covered in the (hopefully) very near future.

2012 Norton Commando Cafe

Skratch from LA lettering bell helmets

On the way out, we noticed famed L.A. pinstripe artist, Skratch was lettering the sides of one of Bells retro line of open face helmets. We grabbed a few pictures and liked what we saw. A Smoke and Throttle lettered helmet is on our Xmas wish list, in xl in case anyone is looking for gift ideas! Check out more info on Skratch and his PinStriping deal with Bell Helmets over at our brother blog, The Self Centered Man.

Skratch Bell Custom

Skratch Bell

More on Norton coming soon. Gotta get up early for the AMCA annual vintage swapnmeet in York Pa tomorrow. Till next time!


  1. vintage Motorcycle along with vintage Open Face Helmet , it would be great combination.

  2. We’ll link these activities together by riding through picturesque rice paddy. Again, as it’s a layover day, those not wishing to participate are free to explore Chiang Rai or simply laze by the pool (again!).Asia motorcycle touring here